This weekend, House Republicans will embark on their annual retreat, where they will formulate their plans for the upcoming legislative session. Last year’s gathering, as Lee Fang reported, was a lobbyist-studded event where the GOP rubbed elbows with representatives of the nation’s biggest banks and health insurance companies.
This year, the House Republican game-plan is even more important, as the party has won control of the House of Representatives. Among other things, this means that the GOP will have the opportunity to present a budget, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). In preparation, according to Politico, Republicans are bringing some old budget hands to their retreat, to hear their pearls of wisdom:
This week’s party retreat in Baltimore, running through Saturday, features Republican veterans of past budget battles: former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.…Watching is House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who will have a critical role in setting the cap for all discretionary spending for fiscal year 2011.
In terms of budget acumen, the GOP would be hard-pressed to turn to two more disastrous figures. Consider:
– Gingrich orchestrated the government shutdown of 1995 by refusing to pass either a budget or a continuing resolution. The shutdown was incredibly unpopular with the American public, leading Gingrich’s disapproval ratings to hit 65 percent. But aside from the political effects, the shutdown caused an economic mess: it ended up costing taxpayers more than $800 million in losses for salaries paid to furloughed employees, delayed access to Medicare and Social Security, and “rattled the confidence of international investors in U.S. government bonds.”
– Gramm, who said that the U.S. was only in a “mental recession” when the Great Recession of 2008 began, snuck the Commodity Futures Modernization Act into an unrelated, 11,000 page appropriations bill. That act ensured that the huge market in over-the-counter derivatives stayed unregulated, laying the groundwork for the 2008 financial crisis (and the implosions of AIG and Lehman Brothers). When he wasn’t carrying water for the banking industry, Gramm “lent his name and energy to passage of the first Reagan budget in 1981, whose sweeping tax cuts failed to prevent recession — and eventually required a long series of tax increases, beginning in 1982, to stanch the enormous deficits they created.” Gramm’s also believes there should be no minimum wage and has derided the working poor by saying, “we’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat.”